08/06/2012 08:49 EDT | Updated 10/06/2012 05:12 EDT

A year after the London riots, Olympic chief says Games show city's true face

LONDON - A year ago, London was in flames. Now it is basking in the glow of the Olympic cauldron.

The Games' host city paused Monday to reflect on riots that erupted in a north London neighbourhood on Aug. 6, 2011, and sparked four nights of looting, arson and mayhem across England.

Britain's worst street violence for decades left five people dead, several thousand arrested, a nation shocked — and raised questions about whether London would be able to successfully host the Olympic Games.

A year on that question has been answered. The city is celebrating an Olympics that have, so far, gone more smoothly than organizers dared hope.

Organizing committee chief Sebastian Coe said Monday that last August, the world "saw a London I didn't recognize."

"What I am seeing at the moment is a London that I do recognize," he said.

The rioting was triggered by the police shooting, in disputed circumstances, of a 29-year-old man in the Tottenham area of north London. A protest outside the local police station erupted into violence, and soon arson and looting spread across the city and beyond.

More than 3,000 people have appeared in court over the riots — more than half of them under 21.

Britain's young people were the face of the riots. They are also the face of the Olympic Games now, both on the playing field and around the venues, where 70,000 volunteer "games makers" — many of them young Londoners — have drawn praise for their enthusiasm.

In a bid to bolster that positive image of young Britain, a furniture store damaged in the riots was covered Monday by more than 4,000 pictures of young people holding positive signs such as "I believe in me."

The 140-year-old House of Reeves store in south London was burned down in what became one of the most famous images of the violence. The firm's adjacent store was damaged but has been refurbished.

Co-owner Trevor Reeves said it was "important that we don't allow the actions of such a few to cloud our judgment of the many."

"The positive legacy of the riots was the coming together of people of all ages and from all walks of life to help mend the capital," he said.

Some analysts say underlying causes of the riots — from consumerism to child poverty — have not been addressed.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the violence had been a "wake-up call for the country" — but insisted that lessons had been learned.

"I am determined that we will do everything we can to tackle the causes of the riots to ensure we never see scenes like that again," he said.